• Rebecca Blackmon

Everything You Need To Know About Hostels

If you’re traveling internationally, hostels can be one of the easiest ways to save big. But why do a lot of people still not use hostels? In my opinion, it is because a lot of people are not familiar with hostels and how they work.

A friend of mine, Dillon has shared his experience and knowledge about hostels. He has stayed in hostels in 11 different countries, so he is more than qualified to answer questions regarding everything you need to know about hostels!

Q: What is a hostel?

The best way to think about a hostel is kind of like a dormitory for international travelers. They vary widely on what they offer, how they are setup, and what you can do. They are a great way to meet fellow travelers and experience the culture. Hostels typically have shared dining room and kitchen areas, can offer tours just for visitors, and offer some organized social activities. For example, a beer pong tournament in hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland.

  • Sleeping: A generic hostel is setup with a sleeping area with bunk beds that is either mixed or same sex. Good ones will have sturdy bunk beds that have nightlights, electronic plugs, and a locker with a key for each bed and occupant. Bonus if they have a thick curtain to cover your bed. The hostels will have different men’s and women’s bathrooms that have shared shower areas and you can typically rent a towel for a $1 or so extra.

  • Security: In order to promote a safer environment, most hostels will have the option for female only dormitories. Most hostels have room keys that only the designated guests have to ensure no one but the people staying there can get in and get out and also the entire hostel has a keyed entrance for only guests. Almost all hostels additionally do not let locals stay there at all, reserving it exclusively for international travelers. In addition, most have 24/7 front desk help. Furthermore, if you are little hesitant to sleep in a large shared room but still want to interact with fellow travelers and the group activities, almost all hostels provide single, double, quad, and 8 bed rooms.

Q: What is the average cost of a hostel? Are there different types of hostels that costs more or less?

The cost of a hostel typically depends on the city being visited and the room chosen to sleep in. The short and sweet answer is that more expensive cities will cost more and if you choose to sleep in a room with a smaller number of beds it will cost more. Most are usually $25 or less a night. Ways to get an extra bang for your buck is to find ones that offer free towels and free breakfast. Just to put things in perspective, I paid $11 for a bed in a 22 mixed bedroom hostel in London, and am paying $15 for a single bedroom with shared bath for a room in Cairo.

Q: Are hostels safe?

I absolutely understand the concern for safety, especially if you’re a female traveling with only females or solo female traveler. I do think hostels are very safe, as long as you do your research. The fact of the matter is that bad things can happen anywhere. They happen in your city every day. Being a safe traveler comes down to a couple of things: doing your research (not just about the hostel you’re staying in, but also the culture of the country you’re visiting), being aware of what’s happening around you, and not putting yourself in dangerous places or situations that could be avoided. The great thing about hostels in my experience is that because they are designed for international travelers, they are very understanding and helpful when it comes to the culture and customs. They don’t get mad at you if you do something that might be considered “offensive” in their culture – instead, they’re very helpful in educating you.

Q: How do you find good hostels to stay?

When looking for hostels, my go to is hostelworld.com. There used to be a “hostelbookers.com” but it looks like hostelworld bought them out. I have also booked from booking.com with minimal problems. Simply put though, hostelworld’s focus on hostels and their user interaction just make them superior. What you do is type in the city you’re visiting and enter the dates you want to go. You will search and then all the hostels available will pop up with a rating of 0-10 next to them. You can also read reviews for each one of them there, see a ton of photos and find out about amenities. Rule of thumb is to make sure you get your own key, electronic outlets, and a locker. Bonus if they have free coffee, breakfast, and towels/or toiletries.

2 Pro-tips:

  • Look at the construction of the beds in the pictures and try to determine if they are sturdy. If you are in for the night and asleep in a bunkbed and the other person comes in later, if the beds are thin metal it may shake you awake.

  • Read reviews to see if it is a “party hostel” or not. If you are looking for just a place to lay your head and maybe meet some people as you quietly sip coffee in the morning then a party hostel is not for you. Party hostels are for people that want to go out at night as groups and typically come in drunk around 2 or 3 in the morning.

Q: What is your experience with hostels?

I personally think hostels are the absolute best even if you only want a single room and to be left alone. If you are traveling to an area where you don’t speak the language and don’t know the customs, they are specifically made for international, young travelers. Sleep, get up when you want to, shower, then head down to the shared kitchen/dining area and grab some coffee. Usually someone has made it for everyone (if not full breakfast) and someone on staff is nearby always. Sit down and chat up someone from another country visiting this country for the same reasons you are. Once you’re ready you can take off on your own solo adventure, go out with the hostels planned tour that day, or tag along with another group. Depending on the hostel, when you’re done they might have a bar area, games setup that night, movie nights, or a hostel pub crawl. Here are some of the places I’ve stayed:

  1. Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima

  2. Ukraine: Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa, Yaremcha, Bukovel, Chernivtsi

  3. Germany: Munich, Dusseldorf

  4. Austria: Bad Goisern

  5. Romania: Timisoara, Suceava, Brasov (In Brasov: A Romanian guy staying there hated and wanted to fight us just because we were American and the staff backed us fully and kicked him out.)

  6. Poland: Krakow

  7. Czechia (Former Czech Republic): Prague

  8. Hungary: Budapest

  9. Turkey: Istanbul (Probably my coolest experience was when one of the Turkish workers asked me to translate between him and a Russian traveler because she did not understand how to order drinks and hookah. So, I got to speak Russian to her and English to him.)

  10. United Kingdom (England): London

  11. United Kingdom (Scotland): Glasgow, Edinburgh

Q: Anything else we need to know?

Like anything, do your research beforehand. Make sure your hostel is in a safe area, and read reviews to see the hostel’s culture. If your flight gets in late you want to notify them and make sure someone will be available to check you in. I cannot praise the hostelworld app enough for how easy it is to see and compare for this. 11 countries with dozens of different hostel stays and I’ve only ever had one problem – that was in Brasov, Romania and the staff quickly kicked him out. I also don’t know of anyone else that has had a problem.

Going Places is a travel blog that provides travel stories, travel guides, travel hacks & budget travel tips.


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